7 Fascinating Facts About Macaws

What is the most colorful animal that comes to your mind off the top of your head?

Chances are pretty good you were thinking of parrots, considering these jungle birds are known for their bright colors and extravagant plumages. Besides being the largest parrot species, macaws are also one of the most colorful ones! Native to Central and South America, these ‘social butterflies’ are usually living in flocks of up to 100 individuals, primarily in the Amazon and Pantanal regions.

In Mayan culture, macaws are known as ‘Guacamayas’, and they’re highly intelligent masters of living in the jungle. How so? Check out our facts about macaws below to learn more!

1. Extraordinary plumage

A macaw’s plumage is like no other – just like a human fingerprint! The parrot’s bright plumes impress in a wide range of colour combinations, depending on the area they live in. Surprisingly, being home to the exotic Amazon rainforest, macaws are actually pretty well camouflaged with their distinctive appearance. Moreover, macaw feathers rank amongst the Amazonian culture’s most valued goods, which is why they are commonly used for Native headdresses.

2. The strongest beak

You better don’t mess with a macaw! Their beaks are extraordinarily strong, and some of the parrots have even been witnessed to crack open coconuts with them. Believe it or not, macaw tongues are even more unusual: In comparison to ours, it’s dry and scaly and has a proper bone in them, which comes in handy for tapping into fruits.

Flying up to 25 km every day in search of food, macaws mostly eat fruits, leaves, seeds, flowers, and nuts. Apart from that, the colorful birds feed on clay licks along riverbanks, which are known to aid digestion and neutralize toxins. In fact, clay is a valuable source of minerals, and serves as real super food for the vibrant birds!

3. Big brain energy

Did you know that macaws are highly intelligent? Scientists found out that they possess a particularly well-developed vocal learning center, allowing them to mimic human speech. It’s by all means not talking, but macaws can be taught words if you repeat them often enough! Pretty impressive, right?

4. Close to immortality

Macaws are long-living birds: They get about sixty years old in the wild, which can mainly be attributed to the lack of predators they have in the Latin American rainforest! Under proper conditions, they can even live up to 100 years. In fact, it’s not rare that domestic macaws outlive their owners.

5. Monogamous true souls

During their entire lifespan, macaws will stay with the same partner! Once they reach breeding age at about three to four years, the monogamous birds tend to stay together with their partner of choice for the rest of their long lives. Who would have thought birds can be that romantic?

6. Beautiful in full size

Out of all parrots, the macaw is the largest! While they range drastically in terms of size, the largest macaw species called the Hyacinth spans up to one meter from head to toe. Ehm… From beak to tail, we mean! Think this is huge? Their wingspan is even more impressive with an incredible length of up to 1.5 meters.

7. The downside of fame

With so many hidden talents, extraordinary features, and stunning looks, people’s interest in macaws has been increasing in recent times. So much that macaws have become popular pets due to their high entertainment value and charisma. Meanwhile, this has resulted in illegal trapping for the bird trade, leading to a drastic decline in population numbers. By now, most of the 22 macaw species are either threatened, critically endangered, or even extinct! As for all of Amazon’s animal inhabitants, the species’ population numbers are additionally threatened by deforestation and habitat degradation.

two purple with yellow hyacinth macaws in a tree
Hyacinth Macaws in a tree. Photo credit: Shutterstock.

Are you interested in learning more about South America’s wildlife after this little foretaste? Check out our Ultimate Guide to South America!

Would you rather see the real thing and meet some macaws in the wild? Chimu Adventures offers great tours around Latin America, with flexible itineraries and heaps of places to explore. A three weeks trip around South America or a cruise to the Galapagos Islands – we have got you covered. Contact us and let us plan your trip of a lifetime!

Author: Bente Bruhnken